Overcoming stigma in mood and anxiety disorders

by Rosie Hales

Now that Mental Health Awareness Week is well underway, researchers and activists across the country are collaborating on projects in the hopes of eliminating stigma and raising awareness of mental health issues.

One such project is Overcoming Stigma in Mood and Anxiety Disorders – a joint initiative between Queen's and Providence Care to tackle the self-stigma felt by many people with mood or .

As the next round of these workshops begin, Caroline Petznick , Overcoming Stigma's program facilitator and a masters student at Queen's, hopes to see as much success as she has with participants in previous workshops.

Rosie Hales, Communications Officer, sat down with Ms. Petznick to discuss stigma and how people like her are working to eliminate it.

Rosie Hales: Stigma is a term we hear used a lot, but what does it actually mean? And what does it mean to self-stigmatize?

Caroline Petznick: Stigma is a prejudice mostly caused by fear of the unknown. Mental illnesses are, for the most part, invisible. Due to this invisibility, there seems to be even more mystery around these challenges and this tends to intensify the stigma.

Stigma – whether self or social – develops when people identify their mental illness as something they believe will hinder them in their lives and accepts that idea. In the Overcoming Stigma workshops, we ask people to separate the symptoms of a mental health disorder from the effects of stigma. For example, depression can lead to a lack of energy, but the sense of giving up that comes from self-stigmatizing can also drain a person's energy.

RH: How do these workshops help participants let go of their self-stigma?

CP: The facilitators in these workshops are all people who have been through an Overcoming Stigma workshop before and have then been trained to run the programs. These courses are so meaningful because they are made up of small groups of people at different stages of their mental health challenge: some have just been diagnosed and others have been working through a for over 30 years.

The first couple of workshops are a chance to build trust in the group, talk about stigma and different mood or anxiety disorders. We then talk about recovery as a journey. Identifying self-stigma is a real "aha!" moment for many of our participants.

RH: Is there anything you're especially looking forward to in this next step of the pilot project?

CP: I love being able to see the impact these workshops are having on the participants. One of the ways we've seen the impact is through the offshoot groups that have started. Overcoming Stigma participants have come to the end of their workshops and decided to continue meeting each week to continue to support one another and help each other through their different experiences.

RH: What's the most important thing participants can take away from the program?

CP: So many participants join the workshops feeling the guilt and shame that can come from having a . The most important thing we emphasize is that it's not their fault. Mental illnesses are equal opportunity illnesses.

We know that at least 1 in 5 Canadians has a mental health issue – in Kingston that means about 25,000 people are affected. That said, 5 in 5 Canadians has mental health, meaning that mental heath impacts us all. There are some great wide-scale projects happening right now to reduce , but we have to make sure that, as individuals, we are looking out for one another too.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stigma: At the root of ostracism and bullying

May 05, 2014

Increasing evidence shows that stigma – whether due to a child's weight, sexual orientation, race, income or other attribute—is at the root of bullying, and that it can cause considerable harm to a child's mental health.

IHC: stigma towards migraine sufferers high

Jun 27, 2013

(HealthDay)—Individuals with migraine experience as much stigma as individuals with epilepsy and panic disorder, which are also episodic, according to a study presented at the 2013 International Headache ...

Recommended for you

The Edwardians were also fans of brain training

5 hours ago

Brain-training programmes are all the rage. They are part of a growing digital brain-health industry that earned more than US$1 billion in revenue in 2012 and is estimated to reach US$6 billion by 2020. The extent to which they actually improve brain function re ...

Report advocates improved police training

Aug 29, 2014

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

Meaningful relationships can help you thrive

Aug 29, 2014

Deep and meaningful relationships play a vital role in overall well-being. Past research has shown that individuals with supportive and rewarding relationships have better mental health, higher levels of subjective well-being ...

User comments